Some weeks just knock you for a loop. This week I found myself in the ER, in pretty terrible pain. Family members had major medical procedures, kids were sick. In between moaning on the couch, I officiated at three different funerals this week. One I had to ask for help–I just couldn’t move.
How do we know when to ask for help and when we can fight through the pain? While it is a judgement call, I see Parshat Pinchas offering us a little help. Pinchas is most well known because of a particularly violent act. He took justice into his hands and killed two people who were flagrantly violating communal and Gd-given laws. When the parshiot were divided, this act was separated from the parsha that bears his name. The rabbis were uncomfortable including it there. Instead, the parsha opens with a ceremony around his covenant of peace, a peace that is not perfect, because of the violence he had committed.
Our tradition believes in the rule of law–but this rule includes the right to a fair trial. Too often we hear stories of vigilante justice, of someone who took the law into his or her own hands. That is a tragedy for all involved–both for the one who tried to bring justice and the one who was harmed. Our American system works when we all have trust in it. For that to work, we must all believe we have a fair stake, a fair shot.
When everyone has opportunity to live their lives, to not be afraid, then we are truly making progress. Then, we can all soar!
Pinchas’ mistake was not asking for help. When he took matters into his own hands, he did not give the community time to act together. Maybe it was the right thing to do, but it wasn’t the right way to do it. The criminals deserved a fair trial. Pinchas denied that to them.
In our own lives, how often do we ask for help when we need it? How often do we wait until we absolutely have no other choice?
I know that I am guilty of this. I frequently do things myself that I should delegate. The personal events of this week remind me that we ALL need help. None of us can act alone. That’s what it means to be part of a community. That’s how we can soar.